In honor of this year’s International Women’s Day, we want to remind you our recent exhibition Bauhaus ∙ Women ∙ Czechoslovakia prepared by SDC-VT in cooperation with ÚDU AV ČR, which was dedicated to female Bauhaus students associated with Czechoslovakia. 

Discover with us what these women were dedicated to and what their fate was!

The Bauhaus – a new school with a focus on architecture and industrial design formed by the merger of the local art academy and school of applied art – opened its doors in Weimar, Germany in 1919. The school’s first director, the architect Walter Gropius, aimed for “the union of all the art under the leadership of architecture and the renewed close relationship between arts and crafts. Art and technology shall form a new unity. The ultimate goal of all artistic activity is the building.” As Gropius proclaimed in the school’s official program and in a speech given at its opening, the Bauhaus would follow modern teaching methods while offering equal access to education: “We accept for apprenticeship any person of untarnished reputation, regardless of gender or age, providing they be considered sufficiently capable and educated by the master’s council. […] We shall make no distinction between the fair sex and the strong sex; there shall be absolute equality but also complete parity of obligations – no concessions to the ladies; we are craftspeople all when it comes to our work.”

The reality of life at the Bauhaus school in Weimar was somewhat different, however. Most women were placed in the weaving workshop known as the “Frauenklasse” and it wasn’t until the school’s move to Dessau and the appointment of the leftist and egalitarian Swiss architect Hannes Meyer as the school’s new director that female students could study in other departments and workshops as well. 

Women had received the right to vote – and to freely choose their subject of study – only a year earlier, with the founding of the Weimar Republic. And yet, the first women to apply for the Bauhaus in 1919 had already completed their education in the fields of teaching and applied art. Applicants for the 1919 summer semester numbered 84 women versus 79 men. Startled at these figures and worried that such a high number of female students might lower the school’s prestige, Gropius advised the master’s council to accept women only to the weaving and ceramics programs.

In 1925, the Bauhaus moved from Weimar to the industrial town of Dessau, where women were given greater opportunities. After Gropius’s departure in 1928, the school’s leadership passed to the more leftist and egalitarian Swiss architect Hannes Meyer, thanks to whom female students could study in other fields as well. For instance, after László Moholy-Nagy left in 1928, the metal workshop was briefly run by his favorite student Marianne Brandt.

Marianne Liebe, who later married the Norwegian painter Erik Brandt and lived with him in Oslo and Paris, had been inspired by the school’s first exhibition to apply as a student in 1923. She attended a preparatory course taught by Josef Albers and Moholy-Nagy, and also studied the theory of forms and colors under Klee and Kandinsky. But most important was her encounter with Moholy-Nagy, in whose metal workshop she created her asymmetrical designs for copper teapots. There followed a study trip to Paris, where she produced numerous collages and photo-collages. In 1926, she designed the first lamp fittings for the Bauhaus building in Dessau. Brandt and designer Hin Bredendieck together created the designs for several companies’ mass-produced lamps and also managed the school’s collaboration with commercial entities. During her time at the Bauhaus, Brandt produced more than 28 lamp designs, and in 1927 she began teaching specialized courses on experimentation with lighting fixtures in the metal workshop. After Moholy-Nagy’s departure, she was named the temporary head of the metal workshop until Alfred Arndt took over in 1929. After Gunta Stölzl, Marianne Brandt was the second woman at the Bauhaus to be assigned such a high position in the school’s hierarchy. She left the Bauhaus in late 1929 to work as an interior designer in Walter Gropius’s architecture studio.

In 1930, after Mayer was forced to leave the school for his political views, the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was named the Bauhaus’s third director, upon a recommendation from Gropius. In 1932, the school was forced to leave Dessau for political reasons, and so Mies moved the Bauhaus (now as a private institution) to a provisional home in a former factory in Berlin-Steglitz. The following year, however, the National Socialists closed down the school for good.

All in all, 462 women studied at all the Bauhaus locations – i.e., in Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin. Many of them applied to the school thinking that they would be able to study architecture or design (glass, furniture, or metal design), but after completing the preparatory courses led by Johannes Itten, most of them, in Weimar at least, were forced to transfer to the weaving workshop, which was known as the Frauenklasse. Although this workshop was the school’s most productive and most successful, the low regard in which it was held by some of the male Bauhaus members is perfectly encapsulated by Oskar Schlemmer’s statement that “Where there’s wool, you’ll women find, even if they weave to just pass the time.”

From its founding until the school’s move to Dessau, the workshop’s crafts master was Helene Börner, succeeded in 1921 by Georg Muche. With Muche’s departure in 1927, Gunta Stölzl was named the workshop’s head, making her the first female member of the school’s council of masters. In her teaching methods, Stölzl focused primarily on working with new textile materials and on the use of modern technologies that made it possible to reorient what had previously been a craft towards abstract industrial design.

Gunta Stölzl was accepted to the Bauhaus in 1919 and spent the 1919–1920 academic year attending Johannes Itten’s preparatory course and his workshop for murals and glass painting. The next year, she studied in the Frauenklasse, i.e., Itten and Börner’s weaving workshop. Stölzl and Marcel Breuer, who joined the school in 1920, collaborated on the design of the “African Chair” – Breuer did the frame and Stölzl the textile weave. In 1921–1922, she designed fabrics for Walter Gropius’s Sommerfeld House. From 1921 to 1925, she attended Georg Muche’s weaving workshop while also studying new methods for dyeing and producing fabrics at the School of Textile Design in Krefeld. In 1924, she went to work at Itten’s newly established Ontos Weaving Workshop (Ontos Werkstätte) in Herrliberg on Lake Zurich. The following year, she returned to the Bauhaus as the master of the weaving workshop, which she took over as its first female head after Georg Muche’s departure in 1926. In 1928, she went on a study trip to Moscow. In early August 1929, she married the Bauhaus student and later architect Arieh Sharon, and on 8 October of that year she gave birth to their daughter Yeal. In 1931, Stölzl left the Bauhaus because of political reasons and internal conflicts and emigrated to Switzerland, where she and the Bauhaus graduates Gertrud Preiswerk and Heinrich Otto Hürlimann founded the S-P-H Stoffe weaving workshop in Zurich later that year.

For her successor as the head of the weaving workshop, Stölzl recommended her assistant of many years, Otti Berger. Although Berger prepared the workshop’s study program in terms all educational, production-related, and practical aspects, she was never officially hired. Instead, the Bauhaus’s new director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe entrusted the workshop to Lilly Reich, and Berger worked as her assistant until 1932, when she opened her own textile workshop in Berlin. She successfully operated her business until 1936, when she was prevented from working because of her Jewish heritage. Otti Berger was killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Another woman to hold a management position in the weaving workshop was Anni Albers, who was a leading proponent of weaving as an artistic form of expression equal to painting and other traditionally recognized art forms. Annelise (Anni) Elsa Frieda Fleischmann began studying at the Bauhaus in 1922, where she met her husband Josef Albers, who was head of the school’s glass workshop. Anni Albers had originally wanted to study glass, but she was prevented from doing so, and so after the school’s move to Dessau she entered Gunta Stölzl’s weaving workshop. In 1933, she and her husband emigrated to the USA, where she made her name as a textile designer. She had a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1949, and in January 2019 a four-month-long retrospective of her work ended at the Tate Modern in London.

In 1932, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe made Lilly Reich the head of the weaving workshop and the building and interior design department at the Bauhaus, where she remained until the school’s closure by the Nazis in 1933. Reich had initially apprenticed as a seamstress and in 1908 began working at Josef Hoffmann’s Wiener Werkstätte. Three years later, she returned to Germany, where she focused on furniture and fashion design. She joined the German Werkbund in 1912 and became the first female member of its board in 1920. In 1924–1926, she worked for the Trade Fair Office in Frankfurt am Main, where she made the life-changing acquaintance of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Over the next several decades, they collaborated on architectural designs for numerous exhibitions and home interiors, including Villa Tugendhat. In 1937, four years after the Bauhaus was forced to close by the Nazis, Mies emigrated to the USA, where Reich joined him two years later. Following her return to Germany, she was drafted into Organization Todt. After the war, she taught interior design, and until her death in 1947 she operated a studio in Berlin specializing in architecture, design, textiles, and fashion.

In the late 1980s, German art historian Magdalena Droste, whose specialization is the history of the Bauhaus, published Frauen im Design, a book dedicated to the important position that female designers hold in the history of applied art. This was followed by numerous other projects that have helped to rehabilitate the importance of the work done by the Bauhaus’s female graduates. In 1996, the MoMA organized an exhibition on the furniture and textile designer Lilly Reich, who significantly influenced the look of several iconic works by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, with whom she shared a close personal and professional relationship. This exhibition, too, hopes to remember and highlight the role of Lilly Reich, who, according to Magdalena Droste, formed a “creative pair” with Mies van der Rohe.

Lilly Reich (16 June 1885 Berlin – 14 December 1947 Berlin)

Reich apprenticed as a seamstress and in 1908 began working at Josef Hoffmann’s Wiener Werkstätte. Three years later, she returned to Germany, where her furniture and fashion designs had already become well known before the First World War. She collaborated with Else Oppler-Legband and nurtured contacts with the theorist Hermann Muthesius. She joined the German Werkbund in 1912, and became a member of its board in 1920. In 1924–1926, she worked for the Trade Fair Office in Frankfurt am Main, where she made the life-changing acquaintance of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The two became partners in life and in work, and over the next several decades created the architectural designs for numerous exhibitions and home interiors. Their first major success was the Velvet and Silk Café, an exposition space created in 1927 in Berlin as part of the Women’s Fashion exhibition. This was followed by many other projects, including the design for the German Werkbund’s large exhibition in Stuttgart in 1927. Reich and Mies were both put in charge of the German exhibition for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, where Reich contributed to the interiors for Mies’s German Pavilion. Later, they worked together on numerous other commissions, including the Lange House and the Esters House in Krefeld and Villa Tugendhat in Brno. In 1932, Reich began working as the head of the weaving workshop and the building and interior design department at the Bauhaus, where she remained until the school’s closure by the Nazis in 1933. In 1937 Also that year, Mies emigrated to the USA. In the meantime, Reich packed all important documents from his Berlin studio and brought them to America two years later. Following her return to Germany, she was drafted into Organization Todt. After the war, she taught interior design at the Berlin School of the Arts and until her death operated a studio in Berlin specializing in architecture, design, textiles, and fashion.

Lotte Stam-Beese (28 Feb. 1903, Rokitki, Poland – 18 Nov. 1988, Krimpen aan den IJssel, Netherlands)

Lotte Beese began studying at the Bauhaus in 1926, initially in the “women’s field” of textiles and weaving but after the building department was established in 1927 under the guidance of Swiss architect Hannes Meyer, she joined it as its first female student. After beginning an affair with the married Meyer, however, she was forced to leave the school in 1928 despite its otherwise liberal environment.

Meyer employed her in his office in Berlin, but she wanted to go elsewhere, and through his contacts with the Czechoslovak avant-garde, which he had nurtured since 1925, he managed to find her a job in Bohuslav Fuchs’s building office in Brno. The first project that Beese worked on in Brno was the Vesna Trade School for Women’s Professions, a boarding school designed by Fuchs and Josef Polášek in 1929. She also worked on Fuchs’s Morava Sanatorium in Tatranská Lomnica (1930–1931) and the Moravian Bank in Br no (1929–1930). Beese was also an excellent photographer, as evidenced among other things by her portrait of her Brno friend, the actress Nina Balcarová, taken at the Moravian Museum in Brno.

In November 1930, Beese went to see Meyer in Moscow , but following a conflict with him she returned, pregnant, to Brno several months later and subsequently gave birth to her son Peter. As a single mother and member of the Left Fr ont, she focused primarily on political activities – she had previously left Fuchs’s architecture firm after taking him to court for failing to pay thr ee months’ maternity leave.

In 1932, she was forced to leave Czechoslovakia because of her leftist activities, but managed (possibly thanks to contacts facilitated by Jaromír Krejcar and Karel Teige) to find work at the Society of Modern Architects of Ukraine (ОСАУ), a collective in the town of Kharkiv. While in Ukraine, she met the Dutch architect Mart Stam, whom she married in 1934.

Stam-Beese and Stam appeared one more time in Czechoslovakia after leaving the Soviet Union in 1935. Based on her correspondence with Karel Teige, they spent the summer in the Bohemian Forest and then were in Brno and Prague, where they apparently gave a talk at the Café Metro on their projects in the USSR. That same year, husband and wife founded their own architecture firm in Amsterdam. Beese was at a disadvantage because she had never completed her studies, and so at age 37 she applied to an architecture program in Amsterdam, which she completed in 1945. However, the combined pressure of her studies, work, looking after her family, and the war in Europe had a negative impact on her marriage, and she and Stam divorced in 1943. Lotte Stam-Beese’s career began to take off after 1946, when she was one of only a few female architects to actively participate in the postwar reconstruction of Rotterdam and in the construction of Functionalist housing estates nearby.

Edith Rindler (8 Mar. 1913, Budapest – 6 Sept. 1986, Prague)

Edith Rindler came from an important Prague German Jewish family. Her father Alois Rindler, a grain wholesaler, supported the studies of his third daughter, who showed a talent for math. After completing secondary school, she spent one year apprenticing as a joiner under Josef Lippertz in Prague. In 1931, she applied to study interior design at the State School for Fine and Applied Art in Berlin, but after being rejected for her insufficient professional training, she left for the Bauhaus Dessau.

At the Bauhaus, Rindler studied in the building department in 1931–1932. Another member of a Prague Jewish family, Mathilde Wiener, had begun studying at the school just before her, and other students in the department at the same time as Edith included Inge Stipanitz, a German woman from Moravská Ostrava. Several portrait photographs of Edith made by Irena Blühová have been preserved from her time as a student at the Bauhaus. Unfortunately, there are no known architectural realizations by any of the three women. At the peak of the Great Depression, women had little chance for success in the building industry, and many of them never went on to practice their studied profession. Edith’s great desire to become an architect is evidenced by the fact that, after leaving Dessau, she studied construction at the School of Industry in Prague, where the construction department was headed by architect Oldřich Starý, a colleague of Karel Teige’s from the editorial board of Stavba magazine and president of the Club of Architects. After taking a supplementary exam in several subjects, Rindler was immediately accepted into the third year of studies, where she was one of only a few female students. She graduated in 1936. Edith Rindler had a very difficult life, although she managed to avoid the concentration camps by emigrating with her family to South America in November 1939. The family later settled in Chile, where she primarily worked as a translator. After the war, she returned to Czechoslovakia to enthusiastically rebuild postwar Europe, but as a single mother she found it hard to make a living. She and her son initially lived with Irena Blühová in Bratislava, but after several mutual disagreements she went to Karlovy Vary, where she found work at the state-run Pozemní Stavby construction company. According to archival information, she changed jobs frequently.

In 1958–1959, her foreign contacts brought her to the attention of military intelligence, which suspected her of spying against communist Czechoslovakia. She was placed under constant pressure and harassment by state security, and eventually ended up in prison (Vykmanov, Pardubice) and in a psychiatric institution. These events had a negative impact on her mental and physical health, and in 1977 a decision by the District Court for Prague 6 partially stripped her of legal capacity and placed her in an institution in Svojšice.

Marie Doleželová Rossmannová (9 Dec. 1909, Nítkovice near Kroměříž – 29 May 1983, Prague)

Marie Doleželová came to the Bauhaus in 1930 directly from Brno’s School of Arts and Crafts, where she had studied clothing design. During her studies in Brno, she was actively involved in theater life as part of the Academic Stage theater ensemble.

In Dessau, she switched from textiles to photography, which she studied under Walter Peterhans. Both she and her future husband, the architect and typographer Zdeněk Rossmann, were forced to leave the Bauhaus in 1931 because of their political leanings – they were part of a group of leftist students who protested the departure of director Hannes Meyer. They left for Paris, but the Great Depression was at its peak and they had no chance of finding work. In September 1931, the director of Bratislava’s School of Artistic Craftsmanship, Josef Vydra, offered Zdeněk Rossmann a position as head of the printmaking department. During their time in Bratislava, Marie Rossmannová could continue to study photography, now under Jaromír Funke.

Since the Rossmann family’s archive was destroyed by the Gestapo, much of Marie Rossmannová’s photographic work is known only from magazine reproductions and a few surviving photographs held by the Moravian Gallery in Brno. However, the family managed to save numerous intimate photographs shot by Marie and Zdeněk, who both intensively documented their private life, especially the period following the birth of their son Pavel. The child became the focal point of their world and the main subject of the photographs they took while on holiday at the family’s country home in Polanka nad Odrou.

Although Marie Rossmannová stood in the shadow of her famous hu sband, her known photographs – in particular her material compositions – a re confirmation of her great talent. One example is Still-Lifes on the Banks of the Seine, a series of images of old items that she found and photographed during her time in Paris. Some photographs from this series feel almost poetically surreal. Her later social reportage photographs from 1932–1933, which she shot as a member of the Left Front for Czech (Index) and Slovak (Dav and Nová Bratislava) magazines, were used primarily for political propaganda, although they did not possess the call to action found in the work of Irena Blühová. Rossmannová’s most technically perfect images are those she made under Funke’s guidance at the School of Artistic Craftsmanship, when she produced intimate arranged still-lifes, shot from above, of various objects, toys, and jewelry in which she made maximum use of the tools of modern photography – diagonal composition, high angles, humor, and poetic playfulness. These were also almost certainly the qualities for which her husband used her images in his collages and graphic designs.

Rossmannová spent the war imprisoned in the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. Her dangerous journey home to Moravia through war-ravaged Europe is described in her diaries. After the war, she stopped working with photography for health reasons.

Irena Blühová (2 Mar. 1904, Povážská Bystrica – 30 Nov. 1991, Bratislava)

Irena Blühová joined Walter Peterhans’s photography workshop at the Bauhaus in 1931 as a mature, leftist-oriented individual with a background in social reportage photography in her native Váh River region. Blühová began photographing in 1924 on her hikes through nature, and gradually moved from nature motifs to documentary images of Slovakia’s most underdeveloped regions. While at the Bauhaus, she also studied typography and advertising with Joost Schmidt – skills she later applied to her poster designs and photomontage magazine covers. Above all, Blühová’s Bauhaus experience led her to refine her “sociological research” and to incorporate into her work the compositional and functional principles typical for modern photography. Although she is usually categorized as a socially engaged artist, we should not forget her documentary images or formal compositions from the Bauhaus, which testify to her uncommon artistic vision and enthusiasm for experimentation.

After leaving the Bauhaus and working for the Liberec-based publishing house of Runge & Co. and the Left Front in Prague, Blühová was entrusted with management of the Blüh publishing house and bookshop in Bratislava (1933–1941). At the same time, she attended evening courses with the Czech ethnographer and photographer Karel Plicka at the recently opened film department of Bratislava’s School of Artistic Craftsmanship. Unlike Plicka’s heroic and idealized Slovakia, Blühová took a critical and sometimes uncompromisingly documentary approach to reality. Her anonymously published images served primarily as a means of indictment and a modern form of political propaganda. In terms of iconography, she focused on the somber themes of homelessness, hard physical labor, unemployment, and workers’ strikes. After 1932, Blühová worked for the leftist Slovak magazines Dav, Nová Bratislava, and Ročenka slovenskej chudoby, the Czech communist periodical Tvorba, Hungary’s Az út, and Germany’s Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, where she published her sociological photo-studies, photomontages, collages, and writings anonymously. Since the magazines were communist (i.e., international) in nature, the images, themes, and photographs were often interrelated or repeated themselves. She became an active member of the Sociofoto association, which participated in several sociologically conceived exhibitions in Bratislava, Brno, and Prague.

But Blühová’s work included another position as well, represented by her reportage photographs of everyday life. These sensitive images were recognized by numerous other artists, including John Heartfield, who used her photographs from the Kysuca cycle in his cover design for the German edition of Peter Jilemnický’s book Fallow Land (Brachland, London 1935). During the war, when Blühová was active in illegal activities, her photographs began to take on a more intimate and lyrical quality (Clouds, Early Spring in the Lesser Fatra, 1941). She continued in her photographic endeavors after the war as well.

Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (30 June 1898, Vienna – 9 Oct. 1944, Auschwitz)

Jewish artist Friedl Dicker began studying at Johannes Itten’s private school in Vienna in 1916, and later joined him in leaving for the newly opened Bauhaus in Weimar, where she continued her studies until 1923. After returning to Vienna, she opened her own studio, and in 1926 founded the Singer-Dicker interior and home design company with her partner, the Bauhaus graduate Franz Singer.

This successful studio quickly began working for ethnic German citizens of Czechoslovakia – for instance, the company’s archives stored at the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin contain designs for a living room in the villa of a Dr. Spitzer in Žilina, Slovakia (ca. 1925), photographic documentation of the renovation and refurnishing of Franz Neumann’s villa in Liberec, and the furnishings for Neumann’s home in Prague (undated).

After the rise of the Nazis, Dicker left Vienna for Prague in 1934, where she shared a studio with her classmate, the Viennese architect Grete Bauer-Fröhlich, and was actively engaged in helping German and Austrian émigrés. In 1935, her application for a residency permit was rejected because of her communist activities, but she managed to acquire Czechoslovak citizenship in April 1936 thanks to her marriage to her cousin Pavel Brandeis. In 1938–1942, she and her husband found refuge in Hronov, where she worked for the B. Spieger & Son textile factory along wit h her husband. In 1938, Dicker-Brandeis helped organize the exhibition Náchod 38 marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic, where her textile design won a gold medal. During this time, she also engaged in painting.

In 1942, husband and wife were deported to Theresienstadt, where Friedl taught art and provided art therapy in the boys’ and girls’ homes. Before her departure for Auschwitz, she had a suitcase full of children’s artworks hidden in an attic. After the war, these works made it to the Jewish Museum in Prague.

In her approach to teaching, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis worked with the concepts developed by Franz Cižek, Johannes Itten, and other artists. In her view, “the goal of art education should not be to turn all children into painters, but to develop or, rather, to maintain creativity and independence as a source of energy in everyone, to awaken young people’s imagination and to promote their own viewpoint and perceptiveness.”

Lisbeth Bierman-Oestreicher (27 May 1902, Karlovy Vary – 6 Nov. 1989, Netherlands)

Lisbeth Oestreicher, born into a German Jewish family in Karlovy Vary, is the Bauhaus’s only Czechoslovak graduate in the field of textiles and weaving. She studied at schools of applied art in Vienna, Munich, and Berlin before joining the Bauhaus in 1926, where the textile workshop was headed by Gunta Stölzl. She earned her degree in October 1930, when the school’s directorship had passed to Mies van der Rohe. Oestreicher came to the Bauhaus unburdened by the experiences from Weimar and was influenced primarily by the views of Hannes Meyer. By 1928, she was actively collaborating with industry, for instance designing simple woven fabrics with a rib weave for the Polytextil company in Berlin and for Mechanische Weberei Pausa in Mössingen. In 1930, Oestreicher and her friend Ljuba Monastirsky spent two months as interns at Mechanische Weberei Pausa. During her studies, she was especially interested in fabric dyeing, and in 1929 she began to work as a Mitarbeiterin in the school’s dye workshop. A year later, the Bauhaus sent her to I. G. Farben in Hoechst near Frankfurt am Main, where she took a course to expand her knowledge in this area. In the summer months, she worked in her studio at her family’s home in Karlovy Vary, where she could sell her products to guests of the spa town. She also created clothing designs for various sewing pattern magazines published by the Ullstein or Bayer publishing houses.

After graduating in 1930, Oestreicher left for the Netherlands, where she earned a living as a designer for various textile factories and also produced her own models on a loom. In 1934, the poor economic situation forced her to leave this work and move to Amsterdam, where she opened her own studio. She did very little weaving at the time, and for economic reasons designed and created primarily knit and crocheted clothing for individuals and for companies that produced woolen clothing. Oestreicher’s sister Marie Karoline Oestreicher managed to move from Vienna to the Netherlands before the war, and the two of them opened a joint studio called “Model en foto Austria.” Marie (pseudonym Maria Austria), who after the war went on to become a leading theater photographer, worked as her sister’s personal fashion photographer. After returning home from the Westerbork concentration camp, Lisbeth gave up her professional career in order to look after her dead brother’s children and only occasionally produced knit models for Merz & Co. in Amsterdam.

Here, too, she remained true to the ideas of the Bauhaus: “For me, the starting points are always the material, structure, and color. The only thing that changes is the shape. Shape relates to time. Otherwise, I like symmetry in my work. I enjoy irregularity within a geometric framework.”

Lucia Moholy (18 Jan. 1894, Prague – 17 May 1989, Zurich)

The photographer Lucia Moholy, née Schulz, hailed from a Prague German Jewish family and came to the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1923 along with her husband László Moholy-Nagy. After graduating from the German lyceum in Prague in 1910, Moholy’s knowledge of English and German helped her find work as a teacher and translator.

According to her official biography, she studied art history and philosophy at Prague’s German University, but this fact could not be confirmed in the university’s archives. It is nevertheless possible that she attended lectures there.

In 1915–1918, Moholy was editor-in-chief of the Wiesbadener Zeitung and also worked as a copyeditor for various publishing houses in Leipzig and Berlin, which is where she met László Moholy-Nagy, whom she married in 1921. In the 1920s, she collaborated with her husband in the field of experimental photography and also wrote numerous art historical texts. In 1923, she followed Moholy-Nagy to Weimar, where she studied under photographer Otto Eckner before transferring to the Akademie für Graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe in Leipzig the following year.

In Dessau after the Bauhaus’s move there, Moholy created her well-known series of photographs of architecture, workshop products, and people, and contributed to promoting the school. Her cinema-influenced portrait and reportage photographs are not as sharp and static as the work of the German photographers of the New Objectivity. In 1928, she departed for Berlin with Moholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius, where she helped edit her husband’s book Von Material zur Architektur. After separating from her husband, she replaced Otto Umbehr (Umbo) as a teacher in Johannes Itten’s art school and participated in her first international exhibitions, Film und Foto in Stuttgart (1929) and Das Lichtbild (1930) in Munich. In the early 1930s, Lucia Moholy began a relationship with the German communist leader, editor, and author Theodor Neubauer and also worked on a series of portraits of Clara Zetkin. After Neubauer’s arrest by the Nazis in August 1933, she was forced to emigrate via Prague, Vienna, and Paris to London, where she lectured at the London School of Printing and Graphic Arts and the Central School of Arts and Crafts. In 1939, she published the book A Hundred Years of Photography.

The close ties between this Central European woman and Vienna’s cultural circles is evidenced by her correspondence with Otto Neurath. In 1940, she began documenting the holdings of the Cambridge University Library on microfilm.

Two years later, she founded the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux (ASLIB), which produced microfilm copies of scientific documents from all over Europe for Bletchley Park, where the famous Enigma code was deciphered.

She spent the final days of her life in Switzerland.

Women behind the typewriter: Jesenská, 
Václavková, Vondráčková

Na rozvíjejících se kontaktech mezi československou a evropskou avantgardou – mj. i Bauhausem – se podílely také ženy, které její ideje propagovaly v odborných, The evolving contacts between the Czechoslovak and European avant-garde – Bauhaus included – were fostered in part by women, who promoted the movement’s ideas in trade journals and in popular magazines and periodicals. Especially worth mentioning is the translation work of two women who otherwise stood in the shadows of “great men” – Milena Jesenská (1896–1944) and Jaroslava Václavková (1905–1978). Both women actively translated from German, Václavková – who studied Slavic and Latin languages – also from French. Jaroslava Václavková worked mainly for her husband, the Marxist theorist Bedřich Václavek, and his avant-garde magazine and publishing house Index. The journalist Milena Jesenská – the wife of architect Jaromír Krejcar, who represented the Bauhaus company in Czechoslovakia – wrote mostly for popular magazines such as Pestrý týden. In her articles, which she wrote on the basis of material she received from her husband and from the textile artist Jaroslava Vondráčková, Jesenská advised her readers on how to furnish a modern home: “Our modern homes have completely changed in recent years. […] The entire system of life as we lead it demands a completely different interior.

We love air, space, and light, and are not afraid of half-empty rooms. […] The most important decorative elements in a modern home are textile products.”

As director of an Artěl sales outlet (1927–1931), Jaroslava Vondráčková (1894–1986), who nurtured close ties to Devětsil, imported hand-woven fabrics produced among other places at the Bauhaus workshops. She was a member of the Left Front and promoted functionalist ideas in the textile industry through articles written for industry and lay audiences and published in Panorama, Žijeme, Národní listy, Lidové noviny, Pestrý týden, and Elegantní Praha. She also worked with numerous avant-garde architects, for instance with Jaromír Krejcar on the furnishings for Grete Reiner’s villa in Prague-Strašnice (1927) and for his own home.

Vondráčková visited the Bauhaus with Karel Teige. The personal and professional friendships she nurtured with the school’s teachers and students are documented by her relatively extensive correspondence with, among others, Hannes Meyer and his wife, the textile designer Lena Meyer-Bergner. She was also friends and collaborated with the Croatian textile artist Otti Berger, with whom she shared an interest in new materials. After the dissolution of the Bauhaus Dessau, Berger purchased the workshop’s looms and materials and opened her own studio in Berlin.

She experimented with various materials and collaborated with numerous architects (e.g., Hans Scharoun) and textile companies in Germany and the Netherlands. Vondráčková’s surviving papers include Berger’s letters from Great Britain, where she had moved in 1937, and from Yugoslavia in the years before Berger’s deportation to a concentration camp.

Markéta Svobodová (ÚDU AV ČR), Lucie Valdhansová

More info about the exhibition here.

Brochure to download here.